With Star Wars: The Clone Wars making its way onto Disney+ for the hotly anticipated seventh and final season, series mastermind Dave Filoni is finally rounding off the story he started all the way back in 2008.
But as fans blast off to that galaxy far, far away, the uninitiated might be wondering what the difference is between three separate Star Wars projects with very similar monikers – Attack of the Clones, Star Wars: Clone Wars, and Star Wars: The Clone Wars. (If all three charting the same period of history wasn’t confusing enough, the names definitely didn’t help.)
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In 2002, Lucasfilm released Star Wars: Attack of the Clones as the second entry in George Lucas’ prequel trilogy. Despite Attack of the Clones being a pretty divisive movie , Cartoon Network moved ahead with the 2D animated spin-off series known as Star Wars: Clone Wars. The animation was a huge success and ran for three seasons – however, when Disney acquired the rights to Star Wars in 2010, Clone Wars was banished to the non-canonical realms of the Legends banner.
Lucas’ prequel movies may have been Force-choked by critics, but Star Wars fever continued in 2008 with the theatrical release of the 3D animated movie Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Filoni’s movie was such a hit, it then led to the fan-favourite TV series of the same name.
The early days of The Clone Wars expanded on the relationship between Star Wars staples Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi. While everyone knows how things ultimately end between the Master-Padawan pairing, The Clone Wars gave a more complex backstory to the brooding angst of "The Chosen One".
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Antagonists of the first few seasons included famous rogues like Count Dooku and General Grievous, which once again gave two big bads of the movies more of a time to shine. However, it was in season three that The Clone Wars really found its stride and tried to tell an overarching narrative rather than standalone episodes involving Clone Troopers and a backflipping Yoda.
Season five was told in five four-part story arcs on Cartoon Network, and in 2013, Lucasfilm announced the show was "winding down" before Anakin and co. limped toward a Sith-filled sixth season on Netflix (though Obi-Wan voice actor James Arnold claimed the cast had recorded episodes for a potential seventh and eighth season).
In 2020, though – six years on from the show's last outing – The Clone Wars was revived for a seventh and final season of 12 new episodes, streaming (along with previous seasons) on Disney+
Instead of just filling in the gaps before Anakin’s fiery farewell on Mustafar, The Clone Wars has taken the higher ground and told its own story away from the main branch of the Skywalker Saga – the prequel series has never been afraid to shift focus from characters made popular by the movies and introduce its own original creations.
It’s here that The Clone Wars really cashed in on the potential of Lucas’ world thanks to standout characters like the cool as ice bounty hunter called Cad Bane, heroic clone leader Captain Rex, Mandalorian Terrorist Pre Vizsla, and (of course) the Togruta Padawan known as Ahsoka Tano.
Even though hardcore Star Wars fans have undoubtedly heard of Tano, she’s set to become an even bigger part of the franchise’s future thanks to Rosario Dawson’s casting as a live-action version of the character in The Mandalorian season two. Ashley Eckstein has done a stellar job of playing the animated Tano since 2008, but as Dawson picks up a lightsaber and brings the plucky Padawan to life, she’s poised to become one of the most important characters in the history of Star Wars.
A huge question mark has hung over what happened to Tano between the events of The Clone Wars and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (in which the character had a voice cameo), but thankfully, both The Clone Wars and The Mandalorian are sure to clear things up a bit. The tease of a certain mythical Darksaber, at the end of The Mandalorian’s freshman season, also neatly sets up the arrival of a whole host of The Clone Wars characters to cross over into live-action.
Just as Disney+ shows like Loki, WandaVision, and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier fall under the umbrella of a more unified Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars is finally catching onto the idea and making sure its shows tie into a larger plan for the franchise. Basically, Star Wars: The Clone Wars has shown everyone how Episode I-III should’ve been done.
With 133 episodes to binge once The Clone Wars runs its final credits on Disney+, there’s a vast and exciting adventure for new fans to embark upon, and for loyal followers, the epic saga will finally come to a close across 12 saber-swinging episodes of Sith and sorrow, Padmé and pregnancy, and more Ahsoka Tano than you can wave a Jedi mind trick at.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars is streaming now on Disney+.